I received your e-mail last night, but instead of giving in to the knee-jerk tendency to immediately respond, I thought I’d take the night to respectfully consider some of the issues you’ve brought to the table. In doing so I’ve come to the conclusion that our positions are not as far apart as at first blush it may seem. First of all, while I do honor the contribution that the African motherland contributed to who I am, I fully agree that the plight of African American slaves is often overlooked, and indeed, ignored as an embarrassment when we consider our journey as a people. I’ve been pushing that position for years. In fact, it is more than ironic that the very position that you object to most—that African Americans are in the infancy of their development—was from an article that I wrote in response to an Earl Ofari Hutchinson article about ten years ago.
Clearly, I’m an unabashed Obama supporter, and I would love to get you to support him as well, but I clearly recognized many years ago that since I corner the market on neither wisdom, knowledge, nor intellect, what is more important than getting Black people to agree with me, is getting them to become thoughtful and independent thinkers. It’ll take much more than my opinion to move our people forward—after all, it’s all I can do to move myself forward. So what’s much more important is that we learn to listen to one another, and seriously consider one another’s opinion without demonizing each other as fools, or the enemy. We’ve got to realize that the Black community isn’t a blanket so much as it is a quilt, made up of differing fabrics, colors and ideas. That diversity in our people, and in America as a whole, is not a shortcoming, but an asset, which can make us strong, and uniquely viable. Pointing our finger at this Black man and that Black man as less than truly Black is something that we picked up somewhere in our history that has hurt us tremendously. If we were once a great and powerful people, I’m certain it was that very tendency that led to our downfall.
You said, for example, that Barack Obama is not a child of slavery. But you have no way of knowing that. You’re only looking at his father’s heritage. While his mother was White, how do you know that her family, or someone in her family line, didn’t start out as a slave? In fact, her tendency to mate with a Black man during the years before Obama’s birth may very well indicate that may have been the case.
It doesn’t take but two to three generations for a family to move from one race to another. There are many people in America that would seem to be pure White, or pure Black, whose family was the complete opposite three generations prior. Take my family for example. Two of my grandsons, Eric I and Elijah, on my son’s side of the family are mixed. My daughter-in-law is mixed with Spanish and Jew (both European). Her mother is a pure, White Jew, and her father is Spanish. My grandsons are just a tad darker than any White man, who isn’t absolutely pale. Therefore, if they marry White women, for all intent and purposes, my great grandchildren will be White people—and the very same dynamic is happening on the other side of the ledger. So unless we thoroughly check Obama’s family line on his mother’s side, we don’t know if he’s a child of slavery or not—what difference does it make? Would finding out one way or the other make him a better man?
As a sort of humorous aside, I insisted that my grandsons study and get to know ALL of their heritage so they could choose what part of their heritage with which they wanted to identify. So we have this family joke where my daughter-in-law pulls my son to the side and says, “Listen Eric, I know Poppie insisted that the boys get to know their heritage, but things are not working out.” Then my son asks, “What’s the problem?” “Well, now Little Eric wants to move to the West Bank, and the Honorable Elijah Wattree has cursed that his brother’s crotch be embraced by the fleas of a thousand angry camels. So I want you to stop Eli from wearing that fez to school. And another thing, he keeps throwing water bombs at his older brother, and he put a sign on his brother’s door saying, ‘Down with the Jews—Get the hell out of Palestine.’ I mean, he’s only in the third grade, and his teacher told me she said good morning to him and he said, ‘As Salaam Alaikum, my ravishing Nubian princess.’ Eric, I’m afraid we’re gonna have a jihad right here in the living room.”
So you see, Alex, what we’re dealing with here, as a species, is just as childish as what my grandsons are going through above. In the universal scheme of things, what we’re dealing with is a white cocker spaniel telling Black cocker spaniel that I’m better than you. We weren’t put here for that. God or, nature, if you will (they’re synonymous to me) provided man with the most powerful computer in the known universe, and we’re wasting all of that potential using it to play video games. Man was designed to be the eyes of the universe looking back upon itself, but instead of using that potential in the pursuit of knowledge, we’re wasting it contemplating our navels, and arguing about whose belly button is the prettiest.
We’re involved in a meaningless argument that we will never resolve. In the end, nature will determine who is superior—because the other group won’t be here. Evolution has clearly demonstrated that there are superior members of every species—they are the ones that nature selects to survive. Prior to man, survival of the fittest use to mean what species, and members of a species, was strongest, most ferocious and best able to adapt to an ever-changing environment. But after man was placed on Earth as a naked ape, that dynamic changed. Now, the fittest, or more superior is about brain over brawn.
When man arrived here on Earth, there was no reason to think he would be successful—he was neither as ferocious as the lion, as powerful as the elephant, nor could he fly like an eagle. But nature provided man with something new, a cerebral cortex—the human mind. Now, through the use of that mind, man is now the true king of beasts. We can slaughter the most ferocious lion, trample the most powerful elephant, and fly far beyond the eagle’s domain. Thus, it is the human mind, and only the human mind, that separates superior men from lesser men—race, creed, and color serve as mere distractions for lesser men, with lesser minds.
So from my point of view, there are only two races of people—people who think, and people who don’t think. As far as I’m concern, anyone who considers any other attribute in their assessment of their fellow man, is pedestrian in their thinking. Therefore, race, creed color, experience, gender, culture, and all the other distractions that man can come up with are just that—distractions.
What I am more than anything else, is a thinker, and so is Obama, that’s why he’s my man.
Eric L. Wattree
Eric L. Wattree, Sr. n can be reached at email@example.com.